THE government will build two new community hospitals with 200 beds each as part of a bigger plan to deal with the ageing population over the next two decades.
Each of the hospitals will be built close to a general hospital. The first, to be ready by 2013, will be next to the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital under construction in Yishun. The second, to be completed by 2016, will be adjacent to Jurong General Hospital.
Announcing the plans during the Ministry of Health's committee of supply debate yesterday, Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the target is to boost the number of community hospital beds by 60 per cent over the next 10 years. And by 2020, the ratio of community hospital beds to acute hospital beds should be improved to one to five, from one to eight at present.
'Similarly, we are expanding nursing home capacity by 50 per cent over the next decade from 9,200 to 14,000 beds,' Mr Khaw said. 'This will be in both the private and voluntary welfare organisation sectors.'
The Health Ministry is already working with existing nursing homes, including those with expiring land leases, to increase bed capacity or relocate to bigger premises. Five new nursing homes are expected to be set up over the next two years. And there are plans to reserve more sites for nursing home development to meet longer-term demand.
The moves are in anticipation of higher demand for long-term care services as Singapore faces a 'silver tsunami' in 10-15 years when a generation of baby boomers turns 70-75. Mr Khaw believes Singaporeans will need to save more for their long-term care needs in future, but the issue will be revisited when the economy eventually recovers.
The $400 monthly payout provided under the basic Eldershield is clearly not enough, given a private nursing home can cost $1,800 a month. 'We can either create an Eldersave or you save more in Medisave so it can also be used to fund long-term care,' Mr Khaw said. 'The question is how much will be needed for long-term care.'
Preliminary analysis shows the costs may not be insurmountable, he said. The Health Ministry is studying what is happening in the US, Europe and Japan, which spend less than 3 per cent of GDP on long-term care.
Source: Business Times - 10 Feb 2009
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